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10 Ways to Infuse Your Work With Your Personality

25 May

Keri Smith is a brilliant artist, illustrator and writer. She’s also the author of a variety of books including Living Out Loud – Activities to Fuel a Creative Life, which is now next on my to-read list. A fellow photographer shared a link to Keri’s blog where she shares this gem. So, for anyone wondering how to find yourself, your style, your own creative voice — or for anyone needing a gentle reminder to regain something they may have lost, read on. Her words are wise, poignant and relevant. Thank you Keri for sharing your words!

1. Document what you are responding to regularly. *journal/sketchbook, blog, listmaking, photo journal, bulletin board collage, internet bookmarks, Allow yourself to go deeper into an idea. Find influence outside of your field. Consider that you are ALWAYS working for yourself.

2. Start to challenge yourself on a regular basis to try new things, (not just for work. *i.e. new foods, colors, processes, classes, travel, become a guerilla artist, etc. Your hobbies are your greatest source of play.)

3. Go back to your childhood, (the formative years). What were your favourite things to do? In this lies some clues as to where you want to focus your energy as an adult. What makes you burst with energy?

4. Do something that is not for money. For your own enjoyment. (Your greatest work will come from here!)
-x-mas card
-product concept
-gifts for friends.
Design for yourself. *See handout on guerilla art.

5. Use sources that are based on your daily life. Your life IS your art. What are the things that are most important in your current life?

6. Become a collector. Collecting allows us to look at one thing in a contemplative & mindful way. Giving you new insights and perceptions. Examples: Maria Kalman -purse contents, Steven Guarnaccia -shoe sole
rubbings, Ian Phillips & Grant Heaps -Lost & Found pet posters, Mark Ulriksen (former art director) -misspellings of his name, Charles & Rae Eames -toys from other countries

7. “Pay no attention to the man behind that curtain.” Ignore what other people are doing. It has no bearing on your existence or vision of the world. The times we feel the most discouraged are usually due to the fact we are comparing ourselves to others. Most times reading awards annuals, and industry mags only serves to make us feel inadequate. Try cutting it out entirely. Designer Bruce Mau recommends not entering awards competitions. His reasoning, “Just don’t do it, it’s not good for you.”

8. Don’t promote to target your audience. By all means send things out into the world, but don’t think in terms of “promoting to get work”. Send stuff out because -you’re proud of it, -you want to share something with the world, -it’s fun to get mail, -to have good karma, -you want to spread your germs, -you like licking stamps. Try sending a postcard of something you made for fun, (i.e. directions on how to make a finger puppet). When thinking of subject matter for promotions look to your current life. If you deal with topics that are important to you a piece will have much more life to it.

9. Take a lighthearted approach (Don’t take yourself too seriously). If you feel stuck, you can always reinvent yourself, (re: try something else).

10. Study other artists or creators who followed their own vision. Research.

– article + illustration by Keri Smith


How to be YOU.

19 May

If you’re reading this, you already know we value originality. In fact, we shout its merit from the rooftops. While a large portion of our mission is to defend copyright in the photography industry (and give photographers the tools to do so), we also want to share resources that encourage photographers to foster creativity and pursue their own unique path as well. Today, MCP Actions features a great article by Jessica of 503 Photography that does so perfectly. The topic is building your storefront/website and is a perfect follow-up to “Do the WRITE Thing” posted earlier this week. Instead of looking to other photographers for inspiration, Jessica chronicles her journey of finding the right design and copy (note: it didn’t happen in the first iteration).

She shares tips like “Be You”, “Write Genuinely” and “Let People Get to Know You” — sounds simple and obvious, but she expands on what this looks like and, no, you don’t have to spend a fortune to do it. Most importantly, anyone can put her suggestions into action — if you’re ready to hang your shingle as a photographer, be prepared hang the shingle of a brand that’s uniquely you as well.

Take a look at the full article here.

While you’re reading, browse these articles on finding and developing your unique brand:

Losing Your Fear. Finding Your Brand – Fast Company
One Easy Way to Find Your Brand Idea – Shoestring Branding
Personal Branding 101: How to Discover and Create Your Brand –

Do the WRITE thing.

17 May

In the last week, I’ve heard from a handful of photographers dealing with copyright infringement. It’s sad. It’s offensive. It’s disrespectful. If you’re a photographer just starting out (and there are *many* of you), please don’t browse another photographer’s web site and swipe their copy. That includes: metatags and html codes, splash pages, about pages, bios, price lists or anything not written by you. Basically, if you hit copy and then paste to your site (even if you make a few slight modifications) it’s still WRONG! Not only is pilfering wording unethical, plagiarizing web site copy is illegal and can result in your website being removed from your hosting site.

If you’re just starting out and find wordsmithing to be a challenge — hire a writer, do a trade for services or just wait until you have something to say. Your initial web site copy doesn’t have to be geniusly written or even terribly unique. But, it should be your own. Or one day, you may find yourself writing a letter like this (if you have a conscience):

“I’m not really sure how to begin… but you’ve been on heart and mind lately. Maybe you don’t remember me, maybe you do. I’m writing to tell you that although LONG overdue I am truly and sincerely sorry for what I did to you last summer and how wrong I was for that. I have no excuses or even a good explanation it was just plain wrong and totally thoughtless and me being a complete idiot. And well I’m hoping that you will forgive me and I would like to make amends. That is all. My sincerest apologies go out to you and any grief I may have caused you, I wish you all the best.”

This email was from a photographer who had copied my bio and originally refused to change it because it “described her perfectly.” In the end, she fessed up and created her own original work. And, just as quickly as I asked her to change her wording, I forgave her. For many photographers, a simple admission of wrong doing, an apology and correcting the mistake is all it takes to make things right.

For photographers looking to protect your copy, I recommend the free online tools from Copyscape and Plagiarism Detect.

If you’ve been the photographer who has been copied, we’ll be giving you step-by-step directions on how to issue a DMCA take down notice to the offender’s web host. It’s step one in combating the process (if the offender refuses to respond or remove the material).

Joey Lawrence Speaks Out on Imitation.

15 May

A reader recently sent a link to photographer + prodigy Joey Lawrence. He vents about copycat photographer Diego Verges and his images of the Mentawai people. Verges’ photos are blatant copies of Lawerence’s, right down to setup and camera angles…it’s sad really. Here’s what Lawrence had to say:

“Usually when someone rips off my work blatantly, I don’t say much. I don’t want to put them up on my blog, on a pedestal for everyone to look at, I usually just let it go and forget about it. I also realize there are a lot of photographers, and no one can claim something is one hundred percent their own idea. However, something came to my attention recently that was just too close stylistically to what I do to ignore.”

Are these images inspired or imitated? Take a look and decide for yourself.

In the same, vein Tom Hoops shares his commentary on photographic plagiarism of his work and asks the question, “Why?”

He surmises that many photographers are just learning, striving to emulate artists they admire and most aren’t attempting to be harmful (and I happen to agree). The danger, he says is this:

“Ultimately though the more you copy the less you’ll become your own person. The less likely you are to stand out from the crowd. You wont generate your own ideas, you won’t experiment, you’ll look to others to do it for you and in the end you’ll never achieve what you probably set out to do when you picked up your first camera.”

The moral: use imitation of photographic style as a learning aid (not to establish a reputation), use inspiration to grow and eventually, follow your own path.

The Trademark Process

13 May

The end result of applying for a Trademark is receipt of a Certificate of Registration. However, there are several steps in the process. Hopefully this post demystifies the procedure a bit. Typically, the process is relatively simple and straightforward if you are registering a photography business.

1. The individual conducts a search to ensure the mark is not in use — either as a registered trademark or a common law mark. Common law search is not required, but can be beneficial.

2. Apply for a trademark. The easiest way is through TEAS (Trademark Electronic Application System)

3. The application is processed in the order it is received and assigned to an examining attorney at the USTPO.

4. After three to six months the application is officially reviewed to confirm it meets the proper requirements. “This review includes procedural matters such as making sure the applicant’s goods or services are identified properly. It also includes more substantive matters such as making sure the applicant’s mark is not merely descriptive or likely to cause confusion with a pre-existing applied-for or registered mark. If the application runs afoul of any requirement, the examining attorney will issue an office action requiring the applicant to address certain issues or refusals prior to registration of the mark.” according to Wikipedia

5. Once the attorney determines an application is satisfactory, the application is published for opposition, giving other parties the opportunity to refute the registration of the mark and file an Opposition Proceeding.

6. If an opposition is filed, the application is sent to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board where the opposition is evaluated and considered. If no opposition is filed, the mark is approved and a Certificate of Registration is issued.

You must file a renewal after five years, after which your Trademark is good for 10 years. Next, we’ll walk step-by-step through the application filing process for a photography portrait business.

Errors & Omissions Insurance?

12 May

Professional photographers generally carry liability and equipment insurance. One often overlooked option is Errors and Omissions (E&O) liability insurance. Especially popular among stock and media photographers, E & O Insurance may be worth considering since most coverages can be acquired for $50 to $200 per year–in fact, PPA requires its Wedding Photographers to carry E&O as part of their membership agreement.

E&O Insurance does a number of things — namely, protecting photographers for mistakes they make or errors that clients believe they make. Essentially, it’s a photographer’s malpractice insurance. For wedding photographers, this may include recreating a wedding event if shots are lost, or coverage to pay for hard drive recovery. However, E&O can also protect photographers for infringement claims.

“E & O insurance covers claims resulting from an improper model or property release, invasion of privacy, infringement of copyright or trademark, infringement of patents or libel or slander if you are in the business of advertising, publishing, broadcasting or telecasting. This coverage is beneficial since copyright infringement claims and claims involving invasion of privacy or publicity based on an improper release can be expensive to defend even if the case comes out in your favor,” writes Nancy Wolff an intellectual property professor on PDN Online.

For a small fee, PPA offers an indemnification trust which covers claims made as a result of a photo assignment–a must have for any PPA member. However, based on their literature, coverage for infringement claims is not included. Photographers would need to seek out additional coverage in this arena.

For example the E&O group policy from the American Society of Media Photographers covers claims that allege:
a) defamation or other claim related to disparagement or harm to a person’s reputation
b) invasion, infringement with rights of privacy or publicity
c) infringement of copyright, plagiarism or piracy.

Do you have E&O insurance or are you considering it? Has it been beneficial? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Share below or via

Are You Protected If You Haven’t Trademarked Your Business Name?

11 May

Federally trademarking your business name/brand/tagline (for a mere $275 for most TMs) is definitely the best course of action to take once you establish your unique photography brand. However, what happens if you haven’t trademarked your name and you find a competitor using it as well? If they began using the name AFTER yours was established, you may be protected by common law trademark rights.

According to “Common law rights are property or other legal rights that do not absolutely require formal registration in order to enforce them. Federal trademark registration is not required to establish rights in a trademark. Rights called common law rights arise from actual use of a mark. Generally, the first to either use a mark in commerce or file an intent to use application with the USPTO has the ultimate right to use and registration.”

Trademark rights generally go to the person who FIRST used the name in commerce (or first filed an intent to use the mark if it precedes that date).

This is most easily enforceable in the same geographic region in which the mark is used. So, if you only have conducted business in one state (i.e. never sold prints to someone outside of state or traveled out of state to do business) it may only be enforceable in your own state.

Still, says it best “Federal registration, if available, is almost always recommended and gives a trademark owner substantial additional rights not available under common law.”

More on common law trademarks to come (hint: they are an important part of the trademark search when you apply for your own mark).

Inspired or Infringed?

9 May

Some great articles discussing whether virtually identical images constitute infringement. Take a look and decide for yourself:

Copycat or Not – from PDN

When Does Similar Become Too Similar – Conscientious

Way Too Similar – Conscientious

A FANTASTIC discussion on an area that has been significantly debated in the portrait photography arena. What constitutes photographic plagiarism and how should it be managed?

Photography, Copyright, Plagiarism, and the Internet – Conscientious